Commonly, Roman tradition sees continuity, Greek historians pressure innovation. The result is schematic, but
I hope, helpful.
The Greek word for naked, or nude, is gymnos, and
shows something fresh in the historical world. The word
refers to total nudity. In Classical times, a man was
not gymnos if he wore a perizoma. In a military context gymnos meant “unarmed” (II. 16.815, etc.), not
covered by armour, exposed (Thuc. 3.23, 5.10.71; Xen.
Hell. 4.4.12); and “light armed,” as opposed to the
Heavy armed hoplite. The gymnon stadion (Pind.
Pyth. 11.49) was the race run without armor, in contrast to . By far the most common
Use, however, was particularly “exercising in the
nude.”22 The word had become something fresh, just as
the Greeks had made something awesome of the early so-


In Homer’s poems, of around 800 B.C., nakedness
Entails shame, vulnerability, departure, and dishonor.
The naked body of the hero must be saved. Thersites is threatened with being stripped and run naked
through the assembly. Odysseus covers himself with
leaves before Nausicaa.23 The latter instance, of
course, may be because of the special conditions. The
hero is meeting a young, single girl for the
first time, and it would scarcely be proper for him
to appear before her entirely nude. Homer presents us, it seems, as so often, with the old and the
Awesome, the conventional and the earliest instance of what
is to come.
An essential passage seems to illustrate this kind of coexistence. In the 22nd novel of the Iliad, Priam and Hecuba
in turn attempt-in vain-to dissuade Hector from
going to battle and to certain death. Both allure to his
compassion, and reverence, by facing him with the scene of their nakedness. The sight of one’s parents’ nakedness is wonderful.24 Priam paints a picture of his
own death and degradation. An old man’s death is
Awful: “When an old man is dead and down, and the
dogs mutilate the hoary head and the gray beard and the
parts that are shameful (albi^), this, for all depressed mortality is the sight most pitiful” (II. 22.74-76). Immediately
after this, Hecuba shows her breast and holds it out
for Hector, in entreaty (79-81). This pitiable value refers to the traditional awareness of nakedness.
What is awesome is what Priam contrasts with the
grisly, black, awful death of an old man: the beauty
of the nakedness of a young man. “For a young man
all is decorous when he’s cut down in conflict and snapped

with the sharp bronze, and lies there, and though dead
all that shows about him is amazing… ” (II.
22.71-73). The image is startling at this kind of early
date. It was understandably renowned. of the
passage sounded down the centuries, among them
Tyrtaios’s well-known poem, with its contrast of awful
and delightful.
For this is shameful, for an old guy fallen in conflict
among the front line combatants to lie before the youthful
men, an older guy with his hair white and beard silvery, breathing his virulent life into the dust, his
bloody genitals in his hands and with his skin all naked.
This vision is shameful for the eyes to beholdand reprehensible. But in comparison among young men all these
things are proper as long as he glows in the bloom of
Wonderful youth manhood. They are admirablefor men to
see and incredibly attractivefor women while he is
alive-and he looks additionally honest and amazing
Dropped in the front line.25
There isn’t any sign of any difference between Greeks
and barbarians in Homer in relation to language, faith (the Trojans’ sacrifice at the temple of Athena),
dress, or nudity. In the athletic competitions, the
heroes “gird their loins” to prepare for the wrestling
match. Historical writers presumed this meant that they
wore the perizoma. Lately others have implied
that they were participated in belt-wrestling, understood from
the ancient Near East, where nude man figures wearing thick belts were common in early or protohistoric

cover their genitals. Absolute nudity for men could signify service to the god, a rite “costume.”
The nude woman, always shown in front view, was
An extremely common motif that could have different significance at different times. In Near Eastern art goddesses
were so signified, primary among them Ishtar

(Astarte), whose strong, nude image was widely
distributed, and influential in many places and spans.28 The most common connotation of female nudity
in historical times seems to have been service rendered
in the temple.29 For guys, however, in the ancient
Near East and elsewhere it was a hint of defeat. As in
the Old Testament, nakedness signifies poverty,
shame, captivity, humiliation.30
Greek prehistory offers fewer examples of complete
nudity. Energetic younger men and heroes were symbolized in artwork wearing the perizoma or short pants31
throughout the Aegean and the whole Mediterranean,
in contrast to old guys, dressed in long chitons and